Note: For Foster Care Awareness Month in May, we are releasing a series of podcasts hosted by Appleseed intern Vic Klafter built on fantastic interviews with incredible Nebraskans who have been involved with the child welfare or juvenile justice system, with a focus on foster care and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and/or Transgender people.
In the middle of the series we’ll feature a guest blog post from our newest child welfare intern and then cap it off with a long-form episode compiling the three segments together with some extra discussion and analysis.
Look for important links in the accompanying blog posts with each episode to look further into the data. Leave comments to let us know what you think of the interviews. And share, share, share!
Episode 3 – Amy Peters
To “age out” of foster care in Nebraska means to reach age 19 before finding a permanent placement such as reunification with biological family, legal guardianship, or adoption. Numbers range around 150 to 300 young people aging out every year in Nebraska.
Amy Peters, a juvenile public defender for Lancaster County, is one of those people who aged out around 10 years ago.
When she aged out, Amy took advantage of a program called the Former Ward Program that helped former state wards to attend post-secondary education. This program, now called Bridge to Independence, has now been enhanced substantially to help those who age out beyond those attending college.
Aging out might be the toughest outcome for a kid in foster care regardless of the programs put in place to help support them in their path toward adulthood. In today’s episode, Amy is very honest about her complex feelings toward the journey she followed and the destination she still seeks in regard to family and permanent support.
This battleground of trauma and triumph, isolation and independence, impacts people for the rest of their life. So in addition to supportive programs, another focus should be on preventing these kids from ever entering the system in the first place.
Finally, despite not having hard and fast data, I believe LGBTQ youth are disproportionately affected by the process of aging out in Nebraska. I estimate this primarily because LGBTQ youth are disproportionately represented in the foster care system and in the homeless population.
Additionally, children who enter the system between the ages of 12 and 18 are almost twice as likely to age out, and LGBTQ youth who enter because of problems with their biological family regarding their sexual orientation or gender identity are also more likely to enter the foster care system between the ages of 12 and 18. Thus they are caught at this intersection of two traditionally undesirable dynamics to potential adoptive families: older youth and LGBTQ.
As community members, we can all take part in preventing more kids from entering the foster care system in the future, and hopefully, someday making obsolete the experience of Amy and other people who have aged out.
If you or someone you know has experienced the foster care system, here’s the website for the Foster Care Alumni of America and Amy Peter’s email: firstname.lastname@example.org. My permanent email is email@example.com. I would love to help you or a young person in your life get connected with helpful resources that will make their lives easier and our community stronger.